Author Archives: karenwrites

Why It’s Not Your Job to Design Your Own Book Cover

By Eric Labacz, Book Cover Designer

I worked with a client recently who had spent the last six years writing his book. He described the process of publishing as similar to sending a child into the world. He had no idea how difficult it would be to let it go and have his book take on a life of its own. Upon our initial conversation, he shared with me several chapters of his book that he hoped would provide inspiration for a cover design as well as made it perfectly clear how important his main character was to him and the similarities of their two journeys.

Naturally, I felt his unease, his excitement, his uncertainty…and I used it all to fuel a cover design that today he is thrilled with. It wasn’t until after the cover was completed that he realized the story was not just his own, but that it became mine as well, and that people would interact with it in a way he couldn’t have seen, evolving the story in the process and making theirs, too.

Authors sometimes feel that they are going to lose creative control when they hand their cover to a designer, particularly someone they don’t know well. This may very well be the case if a large publisher, or even a small one, picks up their book. I have spoken to authors who have had moderate to zero input on their covers and some of them are happy and some of them are not. If you are comfortable with loosening up creative control on your cover, then some of the self-publishing models where you do not interact with your cover artist will work just fine for you. If however you’d prefer a closer relationship that offers space for dialogue and more creative input, then seeking out an independent designer may be the way to go. I personally would have a hard time working on a cover without having any contact with the author. I do understand that some of the sites which offer this type of service are trying to produce a product: your book, at the lowest price possible, and that sometimes meaning trimming services and personal interaction between the cover artist and the author. An advantage of working with an independent designer is that it offers plenty of consultation time so that, as an author, you know that your cover artist “gets it.”

The day before I started writing this blog article I had a cover consultation with a new client. After speaking with her for an hour, she confided in me that prior to our conversation, she had been afraid that I wouldn’t get it. It is my job to know how to get it. It’s also my job to consider your perspective on the cover, how the book is going to be marketed, current trends within your genre, cover designs of similar books and the perspective of anyone else who is working with you on your book such as a publishing consultant. As an author it is your job to provide your cover artist with as much reference material, chapter excerpts, character insights and background information as possible to ensure that they do indeed “get it.”

It is in your best interest to surround yourself with a publishing team that includes a designer, an editor, one or more proofreaders, a publishing and a marketing consultant and a layout artist. Sometimes the same individual can wear one or more of these hats. The advantage to self-publishing is that you can control who these individuals are. A good cover artist will evaluate the input of these team members as well as your own and provide you with a creative cover solution that comes from a perspective that you could, most likely, not have reached on your own. Freeing up creative control to the right cover artist will ensure your book be taken seriously and stand toe-to-toe with books that are being marketed and designed by large publishing houses.


To see Eric’s cover designs or to schedule a consulation, visit



If You Like This You’ll Love…

Whether your book is young adult fiction, a non-fiction self-help book, an historical thriller, or any other genre, associating your book with other, more famous books, is an excellent marketing strategy.

But how, as a first-time author, do you do this? You have to make the connection in the minds of your readers and potential readers. Amazon does this all the time. Check below the description for any Amazon book listing and you’ll see “Customers Who Bought This Book Also Bought,” and a listing of several books. Below that there is the “sponsored content” area where you can pay to be listed next to another author’s book.

Of course, the listing you don’t pay for is always best, but considering a “sponsored content” ad may be a good way to jumpstart a new book. Do this carefully and selectively. You want to make sure that you choose the right author to list your book next to.

But before you pay for an ad—any ad—there are some things you should do first.

Using Your Social Media

Use your social media to develop a relationship in your readers’ mind between your work and that of other authors. When blogging, tweeting, and posting develop a list of six to ten other authors in your field, then talk about their books. At the bottom of your post make sure you add a link to your own book. Use hashtags with the other author’s name, as well as hashtags for you and your book.

Why should you promote someone else’s book? Particularly someone who is already famous? Because people already recognize that name and may share your post. The author you have mentioned may even share your post or tweet! And because it is just good karma.

While you should certainly include a couple of the most famous authors in your field in your list, your should also have a few “midlist” authors (authors who are less well-known but have been out there a while and have a following) and some newer authors, also. You may want to contact some of these authors and consider a joint promotion, trading guest blogs, or other promotional strategies.

Finding Partner Authors

Where will you find these lesser-known authors? Why on the Amazon lists, of course. Start by checking out the “Customers Who Bought This Book”  and “Sponsored Content” lists. Next, type in your own categories and search for similar books. Buy the books and read them, so you can talk about them. Review them on Amazon. Check out their websites and Amazon author pages. Are they active? Do they blog or tweet? You can’t effectively partner with someone who isn’t interested in promoting their work, no matter how good it is.

Pulling it All Together

First, use your social media to talk about the authors. Next, contact some of the authors through their websites and see if you can develop a relationship with them. Third, don’t give up after only a few weeks or even months. These types of strategies take time. You are in this for the long haul. Set up a schedule that includes social media, book promotions, in-person promotions, etc. Put reminders on your calendar and make sure you follow up.

E-book Marketing Simplified

I’ve been working a lot helping authors market their work as e-books lately—and that includes my own books. Guess what? Like everything else, the more time and energy you put into it, the better your returns. But, e-book marketing is not difficult. Here’s a short course in the basics.

There are several sites on which you can upload and sell your e-book including:

  • Amazon
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Kobo
  • Smashwords
  • iBooks
  • Google Books

If you are a first-time author—or first time to e-books, I suggest you start with Amazon and Kindle Direct Publishing, specifically the Kindle Select plan. Once you have mastered KDP, the other sites are all similar. Why? Currently approximately 75% of all e-book sales are through Amazon Kindle. If you want to make a name for yourself as an author, you need to increase your sales rank. Maximizing your sales on only one platform will help you to do that. The Kindle Select program easily allows you to create special promotions. Used in conjunction with other promotions, this can greatly increase your e-book sales. Think of it as the snowball effect: Increasing e-book sales in the specific weeks in which you run specials can increase your sales ranking. This gives you increased visibility on Amazon, which, in turn, increases your rankings.

To use the plan you must first make sure that your e-book is not available on any other platform except Kindle. If you have already uploaded your book to other sites, take it down. Then go to your Kindle Direct Publishing “bookshelf” and select the “Kindle Select” option, which increases your royalties to 70%, and set your price at $2.99.

What Next?

Once you have uploaded and published your book, you can start marketing. Now that your book is on Amazon, tell people about it. For the first 45 days of your e-book campaign, you will concentrate on asking the people you already know to buy and review your book. Your goal is to get ten reviews in this period. Ten reviews will allow you greater choice when you do your first e-book marketing campaign.

After your first 45 days on Amazon you can run a one-week price promotion, dropping your price either to 99 cents or free. For your first promotion, I suggest you go with 99 cents.

Next, check out several of the e-book promotion sites that are available. If you don’t have 10 reviews, start with There are dozens of other sites, also, each with slightly different requirements. A few I like are,, and These sites put out daily newsletters to subscribers telling them about various books deals. The newsletter is free for subscribers, but as an author, you must pay to advertise. Prices run from about $25 to several hundred dollars, depending on the popularity of the site. Some sites increase the price for more popular genres such as mystery.

Once you have signed up for a date for your price promotion, make sure you go back to KDP and change your price for the dates you have selected. It’s very easy to do. On your bookshelf, look to the right of your book cover icon and click the “promote and advertise” icon. This will take you to a new page. Click on the yellow “Create a New Kindle Countdown Deal” button.

Make sure “Marketplace” is set to, not Amazon.UK. Choose the date your deal will start and end. Then choose the price.

Now your first promotion is set.

You cannot, however, just sit back and let it happen. Using an e-book selling site will boost your sales, but you need to help it along. Post your deal on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites. If you have a newsletter, send one out the week of your sale and include a link to your book. Think about all of the ways you can let people know that your book is on sale for a week at 99 cents.

Of course, there are no guarantees in life, and the first promotion will rarely take you to number one in your category, unless you happen to have a very small niche market.

As with all marketing, e-book promotions work best when done several times. You can run a promotion once a quarter. The objective is to slowly, over time watch your sales rank increase. It will be at its highest on the first day or two of a promotion, but with luck, after each promotion, your rank will stay higher for longer.